When it comes to tobacco growing, Zimbabwe ranks 5th in the world. Tobacco export is one of the nation’s top forex earners. A number of local growers are on contract with tobacco some exporters, and this brings economic emancipation. However, research shows that tobacco is bad for both smokers and non-smokers health wise. The fight against it is an ongoing battle. This means that if a ban on tobacco happens, Zimbabwe will lose out on the revenue it desperately needs.
With that, for now, the focus is on sustainability when it comes to tobacco curing. As one of its research and development projects, ZERA (Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority) is working on solar powered curing. According to its website under research and development, the Authority is working on a “design of a tobacco curing system using solar energy and a bio-mass heat exchanger unit.” Moreover, other researchers such as UZ engineers, Kutsaga Research and many others are working sustainable curing options to improve tobacco growing in Zimbabwe.
Tobacco growing: sustainable energy for curing.
Additionally, a University of Zimbabwe engineer last year built a prototype solar powered barn. This prototype can be scaled up and farmers can use it on a large scale. The barn has two air inlets. One connects the solar collector which has sufficient heating from the sun. Furthermore, the other inlet connects directly from the blower into the heater element when there is inadequate sunshine.
Also, testing of this prototype was a success. At the time, the next phase was to acquire the solar thermal collector and requisite control instrumentation. This is to conduct a complete tobacco curing test using solar air heater and its auxiliaries. Accomplishing success on a large-scale test will be a revolutionary way of tobacco growing in Zimbabwe.
This is just one of a number of innovations to sustainably cure tobacco. Also, there are upcoming curing fuel types in the Zimbabwean market. There are bricks made from compressing grass and saw dust. These are in use as a fire source for the barns. There is also talk of using LPG gas as a source of fuel. The new ways of improved sustainable fuel for tobacco curing show much potential for success. Moreso, they will alleviate the pressure local farmers face regarding curing of the cash crop. Additionally, these newer technologies in Zimbabwe will improve quality grade in the tobacco growing industry.
Deforestation is a serious threat to climate change and farmers are cutting down trees faster than they are planting them. Also, the time is takes for a tree to grow to maturity does not coincide with the rate of tobacco farming, which is yearly. This sustainability has the potential to help tobacco growing farmers. This is part of efforts Zimbabwe is making towards the use of sustainable energy.